PNF-404 is the planet that Olimar lands on in both Pikmin and Pikmin 2, and is the natural habitat of Pikmin as well as many other lifeforms, many of them predators to the Pikmin. In the first two games, the planet lacked a proper official name and was often referred to as the Planet of the Pikmin or the Pikmin Planet. The inhabitants of Koppai named the planet PNF-404 when they discovered it in Pikmin 3. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it is known as Distant Planet.
In the first Pikmin game, Olimar crash lands on this uncharted planet during his vacation after his ship is struck by an asteroid. Due to the planet's atmosphere filled with oxygen, which is toxic to Olimar and his people, he must escape the planet before his life support system fails.
The Planet as Earth
Although ambiguous, PNF-404 is at least very Earth-like with similar geography. In an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, he states that PNF-404 is in a state where humans are extinct. This explains why no human life-forms are encountered during the entire duration of the game. Pikmin 2's areas are comparable to those in its prequel, and there are new human objects, which can only be described as remnants of society before humans died out.
Whether or not PNF-404 actually is our Earth or an alternate version is never explicitly stated in the games or by Shigeru Miyamoto, the game's creator; either way, it is doubtful that the similarities are coincidental. Tin cans as well as many other man-made objects and structures from modern times can be found lying around in the first game (for example, parts of Perplexing Pool and The Distant Spring appear to be the remains of a bathroom), and most of the 'treasures' found in the second game are man-made or objects natural to Earth. These even include many items that are registered trademarks of existing companies, such as 7-Up and Duracell.
During the second game, this statement is supported: when Olimar lands on or leaves the planet his ship is shown to be heading towards or coming from Africa. Most of the planet's geography has been shown to match Earth's, the Ship even stating at the time of the discovery of the Spherical Atlas that it exhibits PNF-404's geography as seen from space: both this and the Geographic Projection are two halves to a globe that clearly shows Earth and its countries.
Also in the first game, cardboard boxes scattered across the areas with 10s on them indicate that humans were living or had lived at that time. However, the proportion of these objects compared to Olimar's size in the instruction manual make this a bit unjustified, as the cardboard box would be much smaller than a typical cardboard box. Furthermore, there are many different creatures to what we know at the present day. Perhaps this is an entirely new age where humans have died out and many other creatures have come to exist peacefully. Another reason that the Pikmin Planet could be Earth is because in the first game, Olimar stated that the atmosphere contains high levels of oxygen, the component of the air that humans and many other earthly life forms need to breathe, but also an extremely toxic gas to the people of Hocotate.
Pikmin 3 changes the look it had in the past two games. In this game the planet has an entirely new look, with it being heavily based off of scientific hypotheses of how the earth's surface would look like in 250 million years. Almost all of the game's levels are more composed of natural elements rather than man made remnants, and the small amounts of evidence of humanity left are either heavily deteriorated or heavily rusted, even more so than in the earlier games. All of the fruit in the game are based on real fruit, however, many of them are found in places where they wouldn't be able to grow or with other fruit that they aren't grown near.
Analysis of data in Super Smash Bros. Brawl has yielded the information that the Distant Planet stage is also referred to by the name Earth. This is deemed comparable to a debug name, only used in programming the game, but it makes clear that some Nintendo designers see the planet as Earth.
In Nintendo Power Issue 278, it is revealed the editors believe that the planet is Earth.
- Strangely enough, the Geiger Counter is constantly in action, implying that there is strong and constant radiation.
- At the start of Pikmin 2, it appears Olimar and Louie landed somewhere in Africa.
- The planet did not have an official name before Pikmin 3.
- Despite the fact that no moon is ever seen from the surface, Olimar confirms in one of his voyage logs from the first game that the planet does, in fact, have a "pale white moon". It can be seen in the Pikmin 3 intro.
- In Pikmin 3, PNF-404 is based off of "Pangaea Ultima".
- The continents went through a major redesign between Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3.
- "PNF-404" comes from an internet error code, "Error 404 - Page Not Found."
- Although much less likely, the name PNF-404 could also be a reference to the ship H.M.S. Pinafore, from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera of the same name.